Duke to Seek University-College District for Central Campus

May 01, 2005 By Susan Kauffman

Duke will seek zoning for the planned development of its Central Campus that will limit retail businesses, university administrators announced at a public meeting May 5.

"That's good, that's great," said John Schelp, president of the Old West Durham Neighborhood Association who had repeatedly accused the administration of wanting to put property-tax-free businesses on campus that would compete with Durham retailers. "We've been asking for that for a long time. That's wonderful news."

Provost Peter Lange and Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services, also said the completion date for new student residences -- the first phase of development for the 20- to 50-year project -- had been pushed back a year to the fall of 2008. The urgent need to replace student beds has lessened because about 100 fewer seniors are opting to live on campus next year.

Lange and Dawkins spoke at the third community meeting on the future of Central Campus. This meeting, at Asbury United Methodist Church and attended by about 35 people, was designed to discuss Duke's planning process for developing about 200 acres of Duke property between the East and West campuses.

Campus planning committees, consisting of faculty, staff and student representatives, met this spring to review housing, dining, academics, community relations and transportation needs on Central. Their preliminary reports are posted here. It is likely that, in addition to residences, there will be limited retail designed for on-campus students and staff, classrooms, academic offices, an alumni center, career center, bookstore and recreational athletic facilities built, Lange said. Though no departments have said yet they want to move to Central Campus, exploratory talks are underway with the John Hope Franklin Center; foreign languages, literatures and cultures; international student services, and theater studies.

Durham Planning Director Frank Duke said at the meeting that the proposed uses being discussed that evening - and that he had heard about from other Duke administrators - would be permitted under the University-College District Zoning designation, which creates restrictions for perimeter areas of campus, while allowing more flexibility in internal campus areas.

The designation was approved by the Durham City Council two years ago for East and West campuses, but is not yet operational because the city has yet to approve stormwater and transportation plans submitted by the university. The lack of implementation was a major reason why the university had not decided earlier about what zoning to seek, Lange said.

Lange told the group that as the internal programmatic planning process continues, many ideas will surface; few will be considered and even fewer will actually become reality. One thing that will not be put on Central is a car wash, Lange said. The mention of a car wash, which occurred in a subcommittee and subsequently appeared in a newspaper article, had prompted a number of complaints in the community. Lange said the idea of a car wash was never seriously considered by the university and he wished people would stop expecting the worst of Duke.

Several in the audience responded that they did not trust university administrators and felt they had been misled in the past. They also said they want to be included on Central Campus planning committees, an issue raised in previous community forums.

"I've acknowledged our part in creating a distrustful atmosphere," Lange said. Public meetings at which residents can offer input to top administrators should help the situation, he said. Lange, however, made it clear he would not include non-Duke residents on the university's internal planning committees.

Several residents did offer recommendations for what they would like to see happen to Central. Lange and Dawkins said they welcomed the input and would take it under consideration.

Tom Campbell, co-owner of The Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street, told the group he hoped Duke would continue operating its own bookstore rather than bringing in a large chain to run it. Other requests included: ferry Duke students on public transportation between Ninth Street and Central Campus; expand Duke Gardens; and charge higher rents for retailers to compensate for a lack of property tax and give the difference to local government. This was an idea suggested by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask at the March 2004 community meeting on Central Campus.